Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mise en Place

Mise en place is a French term. A rough translation is "everything in its place." It is definitely more of a concept than something definable. In this new career I have chosen, it is a mindset, something that one always has in the back of their mind; instructions for how to go about life.

The thing is, 'mise en place' is gradeable, and the picture above is the perfect example. Right now, I am taking Introduction to Culinary Skills 1, And above is my cutting skills final. I am graded on: Mise en place, overall consistency of cuts, and the twelve above items.

From left to right, top to bottom there is:
Batonnet of celery, small dice of celery, julienne of carrot, brunoise of carrot, chateau potatoes, julienne of bell pepper, medium dice russet potato, large dice russet potato, paysanne of russet potato, chiffonade of basil, medium dice of 1/2 onion, and the segments of an orange.

This picture pretty much sums up the skills I have attained in the last two weeks of class. There are some other things, but I think I'll wait for another day to speak of them.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 1 (for real!)

So I figured I would be able to change the date on the post, but I can't, so don't believe everything you read here. The real date and time of the actual time I wrote the post will be in the text. (Mostly for my own records)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Awake at 5:45 am.

I have not awoken this early (other than for traveling) in years. It is going to be interesting getting used to this, but was ready to go when I got up.

Current classes:
Intruduction to Culinary Skills I
Food Service Sanitation

Both classes taught by Chef Ron Costa. The day was a little painful, only because I had to sit in a very uncomfortable stool for five hours. Everyone in class was very fidgety, never capable of finding a comfortable position on these stools (definitely keeps me awake, though!). Not really much to report on Day 1, basically a very drawn out intro into this new life. Chef Ron is a very top-notch guy, very amicable, and is definitely a food lover.

Chef Ron gave us a lecture about the passion that is involved in this industry, and the passion we all have for food. I definitely understand where he is coming from. Going to the gourmet markets just to see their cheese selections is a good example of what I find enjoyable.

I think passion might come up a lot as I go along both in school and in this blog. There are a lot of ideas in my head that I want to get across to everyone, but I think I will do it a little at a time, so as not to overwhelm you with my opinions.

Day negative 1?

Two hours at school on a Saturday morning. They promised us a free breakfast, and we got it (biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs with cheese and spinach?, and potatoes), but I cannot tell you the food was spectacular. I mean, I have had worse food, but it definitely could be better.

Mostly it was an introduction to some of the administration. We met the vice-president and the dean. The vice-president was very personable (Wendy Bennett), and the dean (Chef Peter Edris) was very serious. He explained to us the importance of the uniform, and how it must be clean and pressed every day. I definitely got the impression that this will be a very serious endeavor.

The uniform
White shirt with “Le Cordon Bleu” written on the left breast. Pants are a black and white hounds tooth design with an elastic waist. Shoes are all black, very simple, steel toe with an extremely slip-resistant sole. Hat is white, kind of a skullcap, called a comme hat. White cravat tie, which must be tied on your own. All of this is somewhat ridiculous, but we’ll see how it goes on the real day 1.

Day negative 2?

I want to give a little intro into this blog. The story: I am going to culinary school. This is obvious. I am going to the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon. The program is a 60 week associates degree in the culinary arts. The program here is in the Cordon Bleu tradition, which is a French style of teaching people how to be a chef that was started in 1895.

The point of this blog: I want to give people a little taste of what culinary school is all about. This is an entirely new endeavor for me; I have no experience in restaurants, so everything is fresh. I want to talk about the ins and outs of what this whole process involves. I will also give a lot of opinion. If you know me at all, you know I have a lot of strong opinions, and there is no way around that. I am going to try to not be too ridiculous, but I do not think you would be reading this if there wasn’t a little bit of ridiculousness. I will not pull any punches here. I will tell you all exactly what I think about everything I go through.

That is the background. I also think it might be nice to throw in a little bit of info as to why I am doing this. The last year and a half I spent in Wyoming was spent cooking. I would get very frustrated with graduate school, very often not really seeing why I was doing it, so I would cook to take my mind off it. For me, cooking moved from something I had to do to something that I enjoyed more than my job and schoolwork. A lot of people go home and watch TV, I go home and cook. I realized that I had a lot of passion for cooking (I will come back to passion a lot in this blog). There were a lot of times where I had to cook for my family or friends, and before I started, I wasn’t really into it, but as soon as I started prepping, it all just flowed out, like there was nothing I would rather be doing. Something inside me turns on when I start cooking, and when the stress of managing four different pots on the stove and something in the oven is on, I really feel like I am in ‘the zone’. It is a feeling that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing with my life.

That is why I am doing this.

I will try my best to update this blog with at least an entry a day. Whether or not I will post one every day is kind of questionable, since I do not have an internet connection at home, but maybe I will find a way.